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Debris Caves In On Man In Ditch Steel Protective Cage Probably Saved Life Of Worker Installing Rathdrum Sewer Line, Fire Chief Says

Wed., Oct. 22, 1997

Dirt, rocks and chunks of asphalt caved in around a worker installing a city sewer line Tuesday afternoon, sending the man to the hospital.

Larry Larson, 41, was working in a ditch about 12 feet deep when debris piled next to it slipped into the hole. The load fell onto Larson - who was bent over inside a steel cage designed to protect workers from cave-ins - but apparently did not bury him, said Wayne Nowacki, Rathdrum fire chief.

Larson was taken to Kootenai Medical Center complaining of back pains and holding his right forearm. He was released Tuesday evening, a nursing supervisor said.

“He was working in a cribbed area,” Nowacki said. “That probably saved his life.”

The accident happened on the second day of sewer work on Montana Street just west of state Highway 41, Nowacki said. Larson was the only one in the ditch when it caved in.

It was not known how much debris fell into the hole, but Nowacki said Larson would have been buried without the protective cage.

Several members of the approximately eight-man construction crew were in the ditch giving Larson, a Riverland Excavating employee, first aid when firefighters arrived about 1:30 p.m. No else was injured.

More than a dozen firefighters, including the Kootenai County technical rescue team, worked about 20 minutes to rescue Larson from the ditch. His dirty face was creased with pain while firefighters pulled him out of the hole and loaded him onto a stretcher.

A construction foreman at the scene refused to comment on the accident. Work resumed at 2:40 p.m.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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